Do You Know the First 7 Signs of Emotional Meltdown? - Goodlife Zen

Do You Know the First 7 Signs of Emotional Meltdown?


By Mary Jaksch

Do sometimes feel pushed to the limits of your emotional resilience? Do you sometimes want to  scream, hurl abuse, run away, or curl up into a ball on the floor?

You may be heading for an emotional meltdown. But don’t worry – there are some simple things you can do to avoid it, once you recognize the symptoms.

When we’re in balance, we can usually avoid responding in an extreme manner. But sometimes we snap and go out of control. (I still have a dent in my dining table where I banged down a coffee mug and then hurled it through a window pane, before yelling at a long-ago boyfriend to get out of the house…NOW!)

I looked up the meaning of the word ‘meltdown’. It means a severe overheating of a nuclear reactor core, resulting in melting of the core and escape of radiation.

That’s a useful image. Because when we’re happy, our resilience is high and we can cope with difficult situations. That’s because we have the strength to protect the core of our being. But when our spirits are low, the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ hit the core of our being.

Actually, I think Hamlet’s famous speech shows that he’s heading for a meltdown:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? ~ Shakespeare.

Like the straw that broke the camel’s back, it can be something quite insignificant that finally tips the balance. Because an emotional meltdown doesn’t happen overnight, except in traumatic circumstances. Usually, there is a buildup of frustration that happens over time. Here are the first warning signs that you’re heading for an emotional meltdown.

The warning signs

1. You feel moody
Your prevalent mood is a sullen, gloomy feeling.

2. Making decisions is difficult (see Hamlet).
It seems impossible to make big life changes, and even small decisions are harder and harder to make.

3. You are irritable.
Low-grade anger and resentment or stress can lead to irritability.  You may be prone to snapping at others over trivial provocation.

4. You can’t relax
The body feels tense and, try as you may, you can’t seem to relax. Going to sleep is difficult and you tend to wake up and worry in the early hours.

5. Your immune system is weak.
The body is run-down and you tend to get a string of colds or other infections.

6. You suffer from exhaustion.
No matter how much you rest, you feel exhausted and depleted.

7. Your eating habits change
You either overeat, or lose your appetite.

If you notice one of the signs, you can easily get back on track. It’s like veering off the road when driving a car. If you notice it at once, all you need is a simple correction and you’re back on track. Let it drift on for longer and you’ll need to wrench the steering wheel around to stay on the road. If you’re asleep at the wheel, your car will go right of the road and crash.

So it’s really important to read the early warning signs of an emotional meltdown. All of us can have a bad day at times, but if you notice that even just two or three of the warning signs are becoming habitual patterns – watch out!

But don’t worry, if you see patterns early enough, you can change them. In the following I’ll outline five ways of escaping an emotional meltdown.

Five no-pill free mood stabilizers

1. Start Expressive Writing
Expressive Writing is a self-help therapy in which one writes about difficult or traumatic events. Research shows that Expressive Writing improves the immune system, and mood. It reduces blood pressure, pain, and post-traumatic symptoms. The way to do it is to write in a private journal for about fifteen minutes a day. Pour all your frustration and pain into the pages. (If you want to know more about Expressive Writing Therapy, take a look at page 12 of my free Ebook Overcome Anything: How to Find the Light after Darkness.)

2. Unburden yourself to a friend.
Talking to a trusted friend is a good way to regain some sense of perspective. Tell your friend that you’re not seeking advice. All you want it to be able to talk about your problems.

3. Take time out
Take the time to refresh your spirit. Go for a walk or meditate – even if just for a short while. Make sure that your time-out is spent with active recreation. If you just blob out in front of  TV, you’ll feel worse, instead of better. Going for a walk is especially helpful because walking allows us integrate our experiencing.

4. Exercise.
A fast way to lift your mood is through sustained exercise. Get your heart rate up through fast walking or other forms of exercise. Even just 10 minutes of exercise will help you feel better.

5. Self-analysis
Self-analysis is a very simple technique that will help you get perspective on you problems. Make sure you are alone and undisturbed for at least 30 minutes and have your journal to hand. Now ask yourself, “What is bothering me?” Wait for an answer to appear in your mind. Then ask, “But, what is really bothering me?” Keep on repeating this question, and in the end you will get to the core of the complication. We rebound a lot quicker if we understand what is really troubling us.

All these five ‘treatments’ will help you regain a measure of resilience. Think of a rubber band. A resilient band can be stretched – and then snap back into size. A brittle band will break when stretched. Resilience allows us to be stretched beyond our comfort zone – and still recover.

The main thing is to be kind to yourself and to take immediate action when you notice one of the seven warning signs.

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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